Investigators from the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry were on the scene at Virginia Produce for most of Tuesday afternoon. Tests were run on the air quality in the plant and came back clean. Mechanical systems inside the plant were back up and operational as of 8 p.m., and no apparent cause was discovered. Personnel continued to monitor air quality throughout the night and Investigators were to be back on the scene Wednesday morning in an attempt to discover what sent more than 50 people to emergency rooms throughout the area.
“At this time, source and cause is still a mystery,” Carroll County Sheriff J.B. Gardner said Wednesday morning. “The Department of Agriculture has released them to distribute the produce.”
Approximately 50 people were transported to area hospitals from Virginia Produce in the Carroll County Industrial Park in Hillsville on Tuesday for possible carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carroll County Emergency Services Coordinator Mike Mock said the initial call came in at 12:41 p.m.
“And when we arrived on scene what we found was a number of people that were sick,” Mock said. “We’re not sure yet what the cause was for sure. It could be several different things that caused it. But we did transport somewhere around 50 people from the scene to different hospitals.”
Mock said the majority of patients were transported to Twin County Regional Hospital in Galax, while others were sent to Northern Hospital of Surry County, N.C. as well as Wytheville.
“I do know there were four patients flown by helicopter, to Duke from what I understand,” Mock said. “I do not know the status of the patients yet.”
Rescue units from all Carroll County departments responded to the scene with the exception of Cana, Mock said, in addition to units from Wythe, Grayson and Surry counties, and the City of Galax.
The dispatch came in at 12:41 p.m. Tuesday afternoon and Twin County Regional Hospital was initially advised to expect between 4 and 15 Hispanic, non-English speaking patients. Carroll County Sheriff J.B. Gardner responded to the scene.
“There were between 25-30 people laying out when we got there. (Chief Deputy) Gary Bourne and I started loading patients left and right and we took off to the hospital,” Gardner said. “There was some kind of gas leak is my understanding.”
Responding units found several people outside of the building complaining of headaches, dizziness, nausea and difficulty breathing.
Gardner said at the time that at least three patients were being airlifted by helicopter “in pretty serious condition.”